Let's start with the plot. The play begins with the song you’ve probably all heard, even if you don’t realize it: Comedy Tonight. I don’t mind telling you, it's totally my favourite song in the whole play.
In Comedy Tonight we are introduced to the main characters and the street in Rome where the play is set. In one house live Senex, his wife Domina, their son Hero and their slaves, Hysterium and Pseudolus. Next to them lives Marcus Lycus, a “buyer and seller of the flesh of beautiful women”, if you know what I mean
. Guys, he’s totally a pimp
. On the other side lives Erronius; his children were stolen in infancy by pirates. Anyways, Senex and Domina are going on a convenient trip to the country, leaving Hysterium in charge of the house and Pseudolus in charge of Hero. Once his parents have left, Hero confides in Pseudolus that he is in love with Philia, a courtesan. Since he wants to buy, earn or steal his freedom, Pseudolous promises to get the girl for Hero, in exchange for that freedom. Unfortunately, Philia has already been sold to the soldier Miles Gloriosus. Luckily, Pseudolus plays a fine game of Xanatos Speed Chess, and what follows is a series of lies, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, corny jokes, really
corny jokes, and some pretty sweet song-and-dance numbers, a series of events that I feel it is my duty to describe as “madcap”.
On the surface, the play seems light and inconsequential, but it’s totally not. Why, just to understand all of the jokes, it helps to have a basic grasp on Latin and Greek, know some Classical literature, and maybe have a degree in ancient history.
Besides the historical in jokes, it seemed to me that every single line was a double entendre, like a play made
of if-you-know-what-I-means. Sure, some of the jokes appealed to the lowest common denominator, but I think sometimes we must descend from our ivory towers of highbrow comedy and laugh at things like slapstick and jokes about men in drag. And if there ever was a time for ivory tower descent, this is it
Basically, the plot is great, the lines are magnificent, the songs are splendid, the music is delightful, the dances are majestic, the jokes are brilliant, the sets are wonderful, the characters are outstanding, and I’ve run out of synonyms for ‘great’. That's how much I loved this play.